2021 Jeep Cherokee

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Updated: November 16, 2020

2021 Jeep Cherokee

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee is a familiar and popular crossover SUV. It borrows its rounded edges from its handsome big sibling, the Grand Cherokee.

The Cherokee is front-wheel drive, but all-wheel drive is optional on every model, and that’s what you’re more likely to find at your Jeep dealer.

For 2021, every Jeep Cherokee gets automatic emergency braking, active lane control, and blind-spot monitors, while adaptive cruise control is available on top trims.

The Cherokee’s base 2.4-liter inline-4 offers up just 180 horsepower to carry its nearly two tons, which isn’t enough for truly quick acceleration. The 271-hp, 3.2-liter V-6 is more like it, but naturally you pay at the pump. That leaves the in-between engine, a 270-hp 2.0-liter turbo-4 that brings the V-6 power and inline-4 fuel economy.

The 2021 Cherokee with all-wheel drive and 2.4-liter inline-4 is rated by the EPA at 21 mpg city, 29 highway, 24 combined. Front-wheel drive gets 1 mpg more. The 2.0-liter turbo-4 gets the same mileage, while bringing 90 more horsepower; it’s optional in the Latitude Lux and Limited models.

The standard engine in those models, plus the Trailhawk, is the 3.2-liter V-6 that is EPA-rated at 19/27/22 mpg with all-wheel drive, 20/29/23 mpg with front-wheel drive, or 18/24/21 mpg in the Trailhawk.

The NHTSA gives the Cherokee four stars overall, which is one less star than tops and one less than most rivals. The IIHS likes it more, calling it a Top Safety Pick in 2020 after it scored top “Good” ratings in all its crash tests.

Model Lineup

The 2021 Cherokee is available in Latitude, Latitude Plus, Latitude Lux, Limited, and Trailhawk trims.

For more than $27,000, the front-wheel-drive Latitude gets 17-inch wheels, cloth upholstery, a 7.0-inch touchscreen for infotainment with Apple CarPlay and Android Auto compatibility, and the active safety features.

The Latitude Plus adds upgraded cloth seats, heated front seats, heated steering wheel, and more available options.

For more than $31,000, the Latitude Lux offers the turbo-4 engine and adds leather upholstery. An 8.4-inch touchscreen is optional.

The Trailhawk comes with the V-6, off-road equipment, and a more rugged interior.

Exterior

The Jeep Cherokee is smoother than ever, though it doesn’t have the crisp corners of the Cherokees of the 20th century. The Trailhawk’s red tow hooks add whiskers.

The body sides signal the Cherokee’s softer side, and the tailgate confirms it.

Interior

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee’s cabin is all business. The symmetrical interior is plain, but the textured plastics and soft-touch materials are better than good, and the details bring the cabin alive. There are convenient spots for drinks, phones, and other things. The USB port is in a bit of an awkward location, just ahead of the shifter where a cord might get tangled, but that’s hardly a big deal.

The front seats are supportive, while being a bit offset, but there’s 40 inches of leg room, and a broad view forward.

There’s good room for two passengers in the rear, but it’s tight with three. Yet somehow in this relatively small footprint, Jeep has found more than 40 inches of rear leg room, with the rear seat slid all the way back.

That shrinks the cargo space to 24.6 cubic feet, but with the seat in a forward position, for example when there are no rear passengers, there’s 29.1 cubic feet for cargo. The higher ground clearance of an all-wheel-drive model will raise the load floor.

Driving Impressions

The standard engine in the Cherokee is a 2.4-liter inline-4 that makes 180 horsepower. It’s fine, but the turbo-4 that’s available in the Latitude Lux and Limited makes 270 hp and 295 pound-feet of torque, while returning the same gas mileage as the 2.4-liter. It’s superior in every way.

The 3.2-liter V-6 makes 271 hp and 239 lb-ft, and feels traditional. It’s more refined than the base inline-4, as it should be, and more thirsty, as would be expected. There’s only one transmission, a 9-speed automatic.

The four-wheel independent suspension in the Cherokee is comfortable on the highway, and steering has some weight that’s helpful to keep the Cherokee tracking down the highway without too much input required.

The all-wheel-drive Trailhawk has a mechanical locking rear differential that helps make it superior off-road. But every Cherokee is very capable off-road.

Final Word

The 2021 Jeep Cherokee is handsome, the cabin materials are high quality, the details are good, and there’s a lot of leg room in the rear. Cargo space is good, too. We’d choose the turbo-4 engine, and if we had the right trail in mind, the Trailhawk edition for its go-anywhere attitude.

 

—by Sam Moses with driving impressions by The Car Connection